Girls Tennis: Coach Jill Welsh excited to be back with Canal Winchester

DAVE PURPURA
dpurpura@thisweeknews.com
Senior Erin Duckworth is playing first singles for the Canal Winchester girls tennis team and first-year coach Jill Welsh. The Indians were 0-3 before playing host to Worthington Kilbourne on Aug. 18.

Jill Welsh quickly was reminded what she had missed during a year away from the Canal Winchester girls tennis team.

"I like teaching both levels, the experienced and the inexperienced. I missed it," Welsh said. "During the first week (of tryouts), we had to teach how to play doubles in general and teach scoring and all that, but I enjoy that. I like the new learners and working with them because they make such great strides.

"What I saw in our first match, I thought was great, but in 10 matches they could look like a different person. With all the experience they'll get, by the end they will be so much better."

After a year off for personal reasons, Welsh's second stint with the Indians began Aug. 10 with a 5-0 loss to Newark. As in her first stretch, which lasted four seasons, Welsh -- who officially returned to the team in early June -- is the head coach while her husband, Doug, a former head coach of the boys team, is the assistant.

Senior Erin Duckworth is at first singles for the second consecutive season, with junior Aliana Runyon at second singles and junior Lauren Snider at first doubles. They are the only three members of the team to have played full time on varsity last year under Lauren's father, Jason.

Canal Winchester went 6-12 overall and 2-3 in the OCC-Capital Division in 2019.

The Indians were 0-3 before playing host to Worthington Kilbourne on Aug. 18 in the OCC-Capital opener for both teams. They fell to host Lancaster 5-0 on Aug. 11 and dropped a 4-1 decision to visiting Central Crossing on Aug. 13.

Sophomore Malea Cobb started the season at third singles.

Snider teamed with junior Lydia Stek at first doubles against Newark. Junior Maria Sims and sophomore Maddie Remias were at second doubles, but Welsh said pairings could be flexible for the first few weeks of the season, if not longer.

"Erin is a veteran. I think she'll have a good season," Welsh said. "The first two are definitely pretty set in singles. Everyone else could go either way. I am just trying to find good combinations for doubles. I don't know if everybody is set in a position right now. We're still working on that. We have to see who works together at doubles and who might be better at singles than doubles and vice versa. I like how the girls have looked, but we could see some movement."

According to Welsh, senior Gracie Amburgey will challenge for a spot in the top seven. There are 17 players in the program, up from 15 last year.

"The first (match) is when we always see the stuff we really need to work on, but I was pleasantly surprised," Welsh said. "They have battled and played well. We had some great points ... (but) we're more an inexperienced team. Even some of the girls who played last year didn't necessarily play at the varsity level, so most of the girls on varsity, this is completely new to them."

Caldwell, Salva to lead Cruisers

Although Groveport Madison had only five players to start the season, two of its top three returned from last year in senior Cassie Salva and sophomore Jillian Caldwell.

Salva is in her second season at first singles, and Caldwell also played singles last year for the Cruisers, who opened Aug. 13 with a 4-1 home loss to Hamilton Township.

Caldwell had the Cruisers' only win at sectional last season, capping a year in which they went 2-11 overall and 1-4 in the OCC-Capital.

"Our team is a very young team this year with four sophomores and one senior," second-year coach Scott Wilson said.

"Although young, two of our sophomores have a full season of varsity experience. Starting with only five players will make it tough for team competition (because we have) to forfeit second doubles each match."

Sophomore Ada Sayre, a first-year player, got the Cruisers' only win against Hamilton Township, a 6-2, 6-0 victory at first singles. According to Wilson, she usually will play second singles but was moved up in Salva's absence from that match.

"(Sayre) is a powerful player with an impressive forehand and backhand that comes from her being a competitive pickleball player for years," Wilson said. "Once she learns the mechanics of a tennis serve, Ada will be a dominant player."

Rounding out the roster are sophomores Alayna Burholt and Liberty Edwards. Burholt, a returnee, and Edwards, a first-year player, teamed at first doubles Aug. 13.

"I believe our team can build on our postseason from last year and go deeper. All of our singles players are skilled and can make a run," Wilson said. "The team has had a great attitude to the start of the season. They have stayed positive with everything going on and have been a joy to coach."

Groveport begins OCC-Buckeye play Tuesday, Aug. 25, at home against Reynoldsburg.

dpurpura@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekDave

At a glance

CANAL WINCHESTER

*Coach: Jill Welsh, first season

*Top players: Malea Cobb, Erin Duckworth, Aliana Runyon and Lauren Snider

*Key loss: Ellie Stedman

*Last season: 6-12 overall

*2019 OCC-Capital standings: New Albany (5-0), Big Walnut (4-1), Newark (3-2), Canal Winchester (2-3), Groveport (1-4), Franklin Heights (0-5)

GROVEPORT MADISON

*Coach: Scott Wilson, second season

*Top players: Alayna Burholt, Jillian Caldwell, Cassie Salva and Ada Sayre

*Key losses: Precious Anumbondem, Lori Hill and Marie Sungu

*Last season: 2-11 overall